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Extra V8 grunt and a leaner look make this updated classic Mustang tempting value.
Report: Ernest Litera. Photos: Shannon Morris
There’s more emotion and engagement attached to the latest version of the Ford Mustang than you will find in most new cars. For those who covet legendary movie cars, the Mustang will always be associated with the seminal car flick Bullitt and its star, Mr Cool himself, Steve McQueen.
Closer to home, an entire generation of performance car fans grew up enthralled by the sight of Allan Moffatt’s 1969 Trans-Am Mustang battling wheel-to-wheel with Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan’s ’67 GTA Mustang. Local heroes Norm Beechey, Bob Jane and Jim Richards have all buckled into racing Mustangs during their storied careers, further building the legend.
Just sitting behind the wheel of this 2019-edition GT Fastback with its nostalgic styling cues, race-bred 5.0-litre V8 and six-speed manual, makes you feel good. Thankfully, there’s also real substance in its mechanical specification, and genuine ability against today’s muscle cars, to back up the classic looks. At $62,990 for this manual-equipped Fastback, and $66,259 for the auto (plus on road costs), it’s remarkably tempting value.
While the Mustang now has all the required active safety equipment, its three-star ANCAP score indicates a shortfall in some aspects of occupant protection, most notably for passengers in the temporary-use rear seats.
The updated 2019 models bring a leaner look and more athletic stance, inspired by the Le Mans-winning Ford GT race car, and also feature a 12-inch, fully programmable digital instrument cluster. The selectable displays are tailored to Normal, Sport or Track modes accompanied by three levels of rumbling exhaust note – plus a quiet mode for discreet departures.
‘Impressive times, matched by effortless flexibility in all situations.’
Up front, the naturally aspirated, all-alloy quad-cam V8 gains a new dual-fuel system featuring high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection for the best combination of low-end torque and high-revving power.
The engine also features new intake and exhaust cams, variable intake cam timing, improved intake port flow and a balanced forged steel crankshaft for improved performance higher in the rev range. The new figures are 339kW of power, up by 33kW over the outgoing model, and 556Nm of torque, up by 26Nm.
With launch control engaged, ensuring optimum grip from the 275/40 ZR19 rear tyres as the big V8 spun effortlessly to its 7000rpm limit, we consistently clocked 13.6 seconds from 0 to 400 metres and 5.7 seconds from 0 to 100kmh. Impressive times, matched by effortless flexibility in all situations.
‘The optional Recaro seats are a great investment in long-term comfort.’
The heavy-duty six-speed manual gearbox offers surprisingly smooth and positive shifts, and while the dual-plate clutch has a distinctly firm action, it’s not overwhelming. The engine’s ability to pull strongly at any speed takes the urgency out of rapid manoeuvres.
Average fuel consumption hovered around 13.6L/100km, which limits the range of the 61-litre fuel tank. Less emotive but equally impressive is the new 10-speed auto, which will also deliver better economy.
We found the optional $3000 Recaro seats a great investment in long-term comfort and support, while the $2700 “MagneRide” suspension delivered the handling control the Mustang deserves.
Ride quality is firm but not jarring, with handling – including the electric power steering – lively and well controlled, despite plenty of road feedback from the large 19-inch wheels and tyres.
Annoyances are few. The rear passenger windows are fixed, so you never completely achieve that classic pillarless look. There’s no simple tip-slide seat action to access the rear seats, just slow electrics. The downside to that perfectly formed, low-sloping roof is that no adult can ever sit comfortably in the rear. The heavy bonnet has no support struts. Room for a space-saver spare wheel is ignored in favour of an inflator kit, and car parks must be approached with caution because forward vision is more about the road ahead than hidden kerbs that can cause expensive damage to the front bodywork.
Spending a further $750 for the single rear wing and $650 for the self-described ‘Over The Top’ black stripes – although not found on the Bullitt car – would surely get the approval of Mr McQueen, especially as optioned on the stunning ‘Orange Fury’ example we tested.
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